Envision a future where you can choose what the main character does next in a movie or TV series?
In fact, this future has arrived and Netflix anticipated it with the release of the first of its kind interactive episode of a TV series on a streaming entertainment platform. The way it works is very simple: viewers' choices at specific point in time influence the narrative of the plot and lead to different endings each time you take a decision.
From what music to play, to questions about career decisions, mental-health issues and even whether to kill other characters, everything is up for interaction with the viewers. All such interactions generate huge amount of data that are collected by Netflix and stored in its secure databases. So, what happens next?
Data mining to feed the company's algorithm and perfect the platform and its services is, of course, the simplest and most correct answer. However, some privacy concerns may also arise.
First of all, it is unclear whether data protection laws extend to user interaction going that far in entertainment, although it is clear that such form of entertainment can amount to profiling. For sure, metadata are concerned and, as a consequence, ePrivacy provisions (as well as GDPR's) could apply to such processing.
Secondly, what if interaction data are shared with third parties? This needs to be assessed carefully, as special categories of personal data may be put under the spotlight without viewers actually knowing it.
The third concern is relevant to surveillance in the form of viewers' tracking and invasive profiling. In this regards, GDPR provides for an obligation to inform data subjects and obtain consent to make processing of this king legit. However, user experience may indeed be damaged with the introduction of such precautions.
This latter issue has a more profound echo when it comes to viewers' tracking via smart TVs, which are already part of attempts to exploit cross device and online-to-offline monitoring of viewers' preferences and choices by many broadcasters and VOD platforms globally.
In conclusion, if 'gamification' represents the future of entertainment as we once knew it, then consumer privacy and data protection must keep a central role and serve as the keystone for the provision of evermore innovative entertainment services.
Interactive TV series represent the first mainstream attempt at narrative-driven gameplay, especially on a streaming platform. But they also carry privacy risks while wearing the cloak of online entertainment.